How Would My Wife's Benefits Be Calculated If I Die Before Age 70 And Before I Claim Benefits?

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Oct 10 2019 - 8:21pm

If a husband whom is currently at FRA decides to wait until 70 to claim his own benefit and has a wife whom is 10 years younger (not at her FRA or age 60), dies before claiming (lets say 69, a year before 70) would the wife get the benefit amount of what the husband would had received at age 69 (assuming she waits until her FRA) or would he be a lower amount? I wasn't sure if the Delayed Retirement Credits are diminished. Thank you Larry for what you do for the investment planning community.

Hi,

If you die prior to claiming your benefits your wife's widow's rate would include credit for any delayed retirement credits (DRC) you accrue up to the month of your death. So, for example, if your full retirement age (FRA) is 66 and you die in the month that you reach age 69, your wife's unreduced widow's rate would be 24% higher than your primary insurance amount (PIA). A person's PIA is the amount of their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing at FRA.

In the same scenario described above, if your wife filed for widow's benefits prior to her FRA her benefit rate would be reduced for age, but her reduced rate would be based on your PIA augmented by DRCs. So, if your PIA was $2000 and you died in the month you reached age 69 without having claimed benefits, your wife's unreduced widow's rate would be $2480 (i.e. $2000 x 1.24). But, if she started drawing at age 60 her rate would be reduced by 28.5% to $1773.20 (i.e. $2480 x .715).

Best, Jerry